Thursday, 24 April 2014

Another novel and some crochet plans...

I've just finished the fantastic novel in this picture, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. I was given this by a friend for my birthday and I've been really looking forward to reading it. I've read Run and Bel Canto (her best known novel) already on the advice of the same friend, so I knew this would be a vivid read. Patchett has a gift for observation but also, here, for invention. The central character, Marina Singh, goes to the wilds of the Amazon to find out how a colleague, working for the same drug company, died. Patchett is always excellent at describing gestures and how they communicate feeling and mental state, as well as characters' own interior worlds. She does all that here, with the most incredible portrait of the Amazon and the tribe among which Singh finds herself. Patchett describes their appearance, customs and etiquette down to the most obscure and intimate details. Alongside this, the work of the researchers, doctors and scientists in the drug company in America and in the Amazon is convincingly described and thought-provoking too as Patchett considers women's fertility. This is a remarkable book. I did wonder if, being a non-scientist and, shamefully, pretty much a non-traveller, I'd enjoy this but I certainly did!

The other book is Jan Eaton's Ripple Stitch Patterns, one I'm browsing through because I want to crochet an outdoor, summer blanket. Having browsed some fab ones online, I'm thinking of using this book to make my own pattern. Has anyone got any tips for sites which show lovely crochet blankets? Always glad of inspiration!


Monday, 7 April 2014

Knitting + books - what more do you want?

Time to write about an excellent novel: Anna Hope's debut, Wake.

This is a beautifully written, moving novel about the lives and legacy of soldiers in World War One. London is preparing for the public, ceremonial funeral of The Unknown Soldier and Hope creates a convincing portrait of the city and its dance halls, government offices and homes after the destruction of the war. There is little sense of celebration: people are mourning the lost, or the un-returned, and the men who have come home from the war are scarred by their experiences. The novel has three protagonists: Ada, a mother whose son is missing; Hettie, a nightclub dancer; Evelyn, who distributes benefits to returning soldiers in a government office. Hope tells each of these stories and weaves between them episodes from soldiers' lives in France. I found the three stories interesting and lifelike - Hope's technique of writing the whole novel in the present tense means that each character's thought processes are minutely recorded so that their inner lives are superbly created. It is a slow-moving novel but I appreciated this: Hope writes in careful, thoughtful detail and there are moments of drama which are also well-managed. All in all, this is a very satisfying read: it's unsentimental (though moving), well-observed and unusual - even though so much writing has been inspired by World War One, this novel has, undoubtedly, something new to say.

And a completed piece of knitting in time for Handmade Monday!! I'm really pleased with this. I've written before about this pattern (from Knits To Give by Debbie Bliss - though it should more properly be called Knits To Keep) and the wool, which is just lovely. The cover is a good, snug fit and it was an easy pattern - it looks misleadingly like garter stitch, but it's a little more complicated than that. I need a reason to make another one - I guess there's always 'giving' ... !